Team Belshaw is currently in Rouen, France. As I seem to have said quite often this year on this blog, it’s been quite the week.
Last Sunday, we got the car packed and ready to drive south after a football tournament that involved my daughter’s new team. Not only did she score a volley direct from a corner and a penalty in the quarter-final shootout, but her team finished runners-up after losing narrowly in the final.
After the celebrations, photos, and receiving of medals, we returned to our car and were… stuck. The electronic handbrake was literally locked on. As this has happened before, I knew that this was going to be neither quick nor cheap to fix.
My dad picked up my wife and kids along with the luggage, while I dealt with the recovery service sent by Volvo Assist. The rest of the story is too long to recount here, especially as I’m typing this on an e-ink touchscreen. Suffice to say it involved boy racers, fire, bald tyres, our car being towed to the wrong garage, an even larger bill than last time, and driving down to Devon in one go on Wednesday!
Monday and Tuesday were weird liminal days where we weren’t sure when we’d be able to set off. I took the opportunity to literally just sit and wait in the local EE shop while the manager endeavoured to sort out the issue with the lack of refund for the 5GEE router I bought several months ago. It’s amazing how things get resolved when you’ve got nowhere particularly to go and can just stare at the person who you need to get a thing done.
The travel down to Devon wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be, and it certainly helped stopping off at a National Trust property (Hardwick Hall) instead of a crowded service station. Once in Devon, we stayed at a house owned by a friend of a friend, sort of a free Airbnb they keep. It’s an extremely kind thing to do and we’re very grateful.
After seeing Hannah’s sister and family on Thursday, and going for a walk down to Sidmouth, we spent Friday preparing for and attending a family wedding. It was good to see people we hadn’t seen for a while.
On Saturday, we got up early and travelled along possibly the most boring road in the UK across from Devon, round London, and to a place in Kent around 45 minutes from the Eurotunnel. Stonehenge was the only, fleeting, thing of interest during the journey.
Thankfully, at the end of it, was a wonderful lunch from Hannah’s auntie, and some family members who came around with whom we get on well. It was the perfect send off before heading to France.
Unfortunately, we were really early for our train as Eurotunnel was delayed. By the time we drove our car on and waited almost an hour they announced that the train had broken down. We were absolutely sweltering, stuck in a hot metal box without air conditioning.
Once we changed trains, everything was fine. We drove to Rouen, arriving at around 23:00 local time. We took turns in the shower at the Novotel Suites, and went to bed.
This morning, we explored Rouen’s old town which is… OK, I guess? The cathedral is impressive, but not unlike cathedrals in which I have been before. The old marketplace contains what can only be described as a crazy-looking church which marks the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
After a bit more walking, we ended up going back to the hotel room, playing some games, and sleeping for a bit. Dinner courtesy of McDonald’s, the French version od which has a lot fewer options for vegetarians than the UK.
Tomorrow we head to our Airbnb just south of the Loire valley. It’ll be nice to chill out with the swimming pool and table tennis for a few days before moving on to Reims, and from there back home!
Photo taken in Sidmouth, Devon